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Máire Geoghegan-Quinn

Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science

The "Innovation Union" – turning ideas into jobs, green growth and social progress

Launch of the Innovation Union

Brussels, 6th October 2010

Good afternoon and thank you for coming.

The Innovation Union is just as much an economic policy as, for example, the eurozone governance framework the Commission proposed last week.

We need a pro-growth, anti-crisis micro-economic environment.

So the Innovation Union is a cornerstone of the Europe 2020 Strategy.

It aims to back innovators all the way - instead of putting barriers in their way.

Not just business innovators but also public service and social innovators, in increasingly crucial areas like the care for the elderly sector, for example. We will also talk to the social partners on how we can boost employee-led innovation.

Here are just two statistics from our memo today.

Business R&D in the EU is 66% lower than the US and 122% lower than Japan, as a share of GDP.

And venture capital funds in Europe were in 2008 at a quarter of the level in the US.

So we face an innovation emergency.

We need an Innovation Union to help get our 23 million unemployed people back to work and keep them there.

We need an Innovation Union to tackle society's biggest challenges: climate change, energy and food security, healthy living and an ageing society.

We need an Innovation Union because Europe does not yet have an innovation culture like the US – and China and India are catching up.

The Innovation Union has three main characteristics. First, a world class science base; second, coherent, Europe-wide use of public sector intervention to stimulate the private sector; third, a concerted and determined effort to remove bottlenecks which stop ideas reaching the market.

A world class science base requires sufficient - and efficient - investment from both public and private sector.

Research alone cannot create an Innovation Union – but you cannot have an Innovation Union without boosting research.

Another statistic, from a new study, shows that achieving our target of investing 3% of EU GDP in R&D by 2020 could create 3.7 million jobs and increase annual GDP by up to €795 billion by 2025.

Of course, that can be much higher if we also take all of the rest of the measures the Commission is proposing today.

On the research side these include completing the European Research Area – a legal requirement under the Lisbon Treaty - by 2014.

Meanwhile, the Eighth Research Framework programme will be designed as a spearhead of the Europe 2020 strategy – with sustainable jobs and growth and tangible environmental and health benefits as the overarching aim. And less red tape than ever before.

We want to build on the success of the European Research Council – frontier research is not academic indulgence.

To give just two examples, ERC funded scientists are working on reproducing volcanic explosions in the laboratory so that the interaction of ash with the atmosphere can be better understood.

They are also working on microscopic chemical robots that could both deliver medicines in the human body and help neutralise toxic spills.

You may remember recent news stories that point to the importance of such research!

You may have seen that yesterday, Professor Konstantin Novoselov, an ERC grant-holder, became one of the youngest ever Nobel Prize winners, for physics.

The promising start of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology will also be further developed. The Commission will reinforce its own scientific base for policy making through its Joint Research Centre.

The second characteristic of the Innovation Union is public and private sectors working together in ways that reflect 21st century realities.

The old models of laissez-faire and dirigisme are both obsolete.

The key word today is partnership. We have seen the potential of using public money to lever in private contributions.

Our Risk-Sharing Finance facility, co-funded and managed with the European Investment Bank to promote riskier R&D and innovation, has leveraged in 15 times the combined Commission and EIB contribution of over a billion euro.

The Innovative Medicines Initiative and the Joint Technology Initiatives like Green Cars and Clean Skies are also beginning to deliver.

But we need to go much further.

So we are announcing today European Innovation Partnerships. They are different from anything before.

First, the Innovation Partnerships will each focus on a specific societal challenge where, by taking a lead, Europe can improve the lives of its people and become a commercial world leader. They will have concrete and measurable goals.

Second, they will be co-driven by political, industrial and scientific stakeholders. We envisage a Steering Board chaired by a European Commissioner – not always Vice-President Tajani or I – we are not going to hog the limelight – but the Commissioner or Commissioners whose portfolio corresponds to the subject matter. I can tell you there is already plenty of interest among our colleagues…..

The Board will include national Ministers, MEPs and key stakeholders. Funding will be European, national and private.

Third, the Partnerships will act on the regulatory and demand sides as well as the supply side. They will, for example, help fast-track regulation and standards and deploy co-ordinated public procurement to create lead markets.

The first pilot Partnership to be launched in early 2011 will be on active and healthy ageing. The aim will be to increase the average number of healthy life years by two by 2020. That would reduce strain on social security and health budgets and help create an EU and global market for innovative products and services, with new opportunities for EU business.

Provided the European Council approves, there will be more Partnerships launched during 2011, including on energy, smart mobility and "liveable cities", water efficiency, non-energy raw materials, and sustainable and productive agriculture.

I hear you asking – can these Partnerships deliver? Our emphatic answer is they can, they will and they must.

I've talked about a world-class science base and about a new public private axis, about building Innovation Partnerships that bring key players together to achieve clear goals.

Vice–President Tajani will speak to you in a moment about the third defining characteristic of our vision for an Innovation Union: how we remove bottlenecks that stop ideas reaching the market.

Let me finish by saying that we are quite aware that we cannot stand here and click our fingers and create an Innovation Union. This is conceived as Europe's first ever truly strategic approach to research and innovation. It needs 100% commitment from the highest political level.

We have that commitment from President Barroso – he put innovation at the centre of the Europe 2020 Strategy. We have that commitment from President Van Rompuy, too. At the European Council in December, we will need that same commitment from heads of state and government.

Thank you

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